Like thrillers? Like epidemiology? This ones for you.

Over the break I read a book that has been on my reading list for some time; The Hot Zone by Richard Preston.  For anyone who is interested in virology, epidemiology or enjoys being freaked out by potential pandemics, this is a must read.  It is an incredibly well documented non-fiction thriller, an account of the rise of Ebola throughout the 20th century.  Did you know the Ebola Zaire strain has a 80-90% mortality rate? Scary.  And there is no known treatment.

The book is absolutely fascinating, and as I find epidemiology really interesting, I could not put it down.  While its is a dramatization, Preston does an excellent job of presenting the story of the Ebola virus, from its mysterious origins in the jungles of central Africa to its near US breakout in a Washington, D.C. monkey house.  He has been praised in academic circles for his depiction of the history of the virus.  A word of caution, this book contains the sometimes gruesome descriptions of the effects a hemorrhagic fever has on the human (and monkey) bodies.  The book is fascinating, frightening and haunting reminder of the power of such a miniscule bundle of protein and DNA.   After all Stephen King did call it ”one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever read.”